LANESBOROUGH -- By next summer, hundreds of people will be hiking and gliding through the green and golden forest canopy of Brodie Mountain.
A new, $1.5 million aerial adventure park, Ramblewild, will feature 140 aerial platforms and a $300,000, 200-foot-long cable suspension bridge over a ravine that designer Jean-Michel Sarrazin described as "a full-on Indiana Jones style bridge."
Once completed in February, the park will include a canopy network of zip lines, rope bridges and tree forts, a maple sugar harvesting operation complete with a sugar house, as well as a 3,000-square-foot combination lodge, ticket office and gift shop.
In the parking lot, overhead lights will be powered by individual solar collectors. There will be no power at the site of the adventure park, a few hundred feet uphill from the lodge.
"We want this to be a natural, unplugged experience," said Tim Gallagher, a Dalton native and CEO of Ramblewild. "We want you to immerse yourself in the woods."
Some of the zip lines will feature unique carrying vessels such as a snowboard, a kayak, a saddle and a trapeze.
Sarrazin, a native of a small village in the French Alps, was part of the team that designed and installed the first aerial adventure park at a ski resort in Europe. Today he is an aerial adventure park designer with Tree-Mendous, a designer and builder of aerial parks. The firm is based in East Chatham, N.Y.
Sarrazin creates a park to be physically challenging, and the zip lines are there to provide a little rest while flitting between the trees. The various bridges between trees will be made of rope, wood, cables and nets.
"We're going to see a lot of people coming back with their friends," Sarrazin said.
The suspension bridge, made of rope-covered cables, netting along the sides and wooden planks to walk over, will pass over a ravine with a creek flowing through it to another section of the park and another network of inter-tree bridges and zip lines, Sarrazin said.
The components are being installed by eight workers using a pressure-mounted clamp system that leaves the trees unharmed. No nails, spikes or drill bits will enter the trees, and cables are separated from each tree using wooden slats to keep the trees from growing over the cables.
New York City-based Feronia Forests, which owns the property on which six of the 10 Berkshire Wind turbines reside, is dedicated to healthy forests through sustainable forestry, according to Gallagher. Feronia conceived Ramblewild as another way to generate revenue from a forest environment while sustaining the native habitat, and at the same time educating the public about forest ecology and life in a forest canopy.
Three-hour passes will allow patrons to roam through the forest canopy at one of five levels of difficulty on five different aerial routes. Auto-locking caribiners will ensure the safety of the outings, and between four and eight staffers will be on duty to give instructions on using the equipment and navigating the elevated network.
Feronia Forests is one of about 700 companies certified as "B," or beneficial, corporations focused on investments that show a return financially as well as environmentally and socially. Tree-Menous also is certified as a B corporation.
"Ramblewild's philosophy is that the woods have a lot more to offer than just timber," Gallagher said. "It's all about spending three hours in the woods for mental and physical health."